Nadler Opening Statement for Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act
Washington, July 20, 2022
WASHINGTON, D.C.—House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler today delivered the following remarks, as prepared, during a markup of the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act (H.R. 2814):
"We are a country with a robust civil justice system, where people—no matter their age, wealth, or education—can bring a lawsuit against those who have caused them harm and hold them accountable. That is, unless those harms are caused by the gun industry.
"In 2005, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA, which effectively extinguished the protections that victims of gun violence could receive through the civil justice system—and, with it, any hope for victims to recover damages when they, or their loved ones, are injured by firearms. We are here today to right those wrongs.
"H.R. 2814, the “Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act," would restore the rights of victims of gun violence to hold the firearm industry accountable when it acts carelessly and disregards reasonable safeguards that would protect the American public.
"Civil litigation is a critical tool to incentivize industry actors to act responsibly, to take steps to prevent negligent or criminal use of their products, and to improve product safety. But the PLCAA foreclosed that possibility with respect to the gun industry.
"An industry that has no fear of being held accountable will devolve into a market that rewards the lowest common denominator. The system created in 2005 disincentivizes responsible behavior and allows companies that ignore safety concerns and act unreasonably to profit from outrageous behavior.
"Instead of seeing safety mechanisms evolve in the marketplace over time, we have seen guns reach our communities that pose an increased danger to their owners, their families, and countless victims of gun violence.
"Dealers have no incentive to avoid negligently selling firearms to traffickers. And manufacturers have doubled down on advertising to children and ordinary civilians for so-called “urban warfare” scenarios.
"Today’s gun industry innovates for lethality—not for safety. Manufacturers have designed guns to accept ultra-high-capacity ammunition magazines and built-in military-style features to make their guns more concealable, controllable, and maneuverable in close quarters like classrooms and night clubs; and they have marketed those weapons with militarized images and language.
"Closing the courthouse doors denies some gun owners, injured by defective products, and all innocent bystanders, their opportunity to seek justice for themselves, their loved ones, and their communities.
"And it denies America a future without the specter of a mass shooting looming over every single public gathering. Seventeen years after PLCAA became law, the story of the gun industry is not one of evolution and innovation, but one of greed and recklessness, one that is responsible for lives snuffed out all-too-soon or forever changed.
"We must have a measure of accountability for the parents of little children who will never have another birthday party or surviving classmates who are too traumatized to return to their schools. The concertgoers and paradegoers who will never walk or dance again. The countless high school students coping with traumatic memories more reminiscent of warzones than classrooms. The grandparents who must now raise their grandchildren while mourning the loss of their own child.
"All of these individuals had something precious taken away by a person with a gun. And they all had their right to hold the gun industry accountable taken away by Congress.
"The “Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act” would restore that right.
"In addition to repealing wholesale immunity for the gun industry, H.R. 2814 would also allow crime gun trace data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms’ Firearm Trace System to be used in civil and administrative cases.
"By rolling back the ban on the discoverability of this data, this bill would allow victim litigants to access, disclose, and use this crucial data as evidence in the course of civil litigation or administrative proceedings.
"The gun industry enjoys legal immunity unmatched in the United States today. PLCAA has provided unprecedented insulation to the gun industry for dangerous business practices that no other industry in the United States enjoys. And it has denied justice to countless victims and survivors of gun violence, preventing recovery from damages wrought by the dangerous marketing and sales practices of the gun industry.
"Today, we take the first step to undo the damage done by that law and rebalance our civil litigation system to resemble what the founders intended.
"It is past time that we put our trust back in the legal system, not in the gun industry. I commend Representative Adam Schiff for introducing this timely legislation, and I urge all Members to support it."